An important legal framework
On the basis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982, the National Assembly of Vietnam passed the Vietnam Law of the Sea on June 21, 2012. The law started to officially take effect from January 1, 20213, serving as an important legal framework to regulate Vietnam's relations at sea and oceans.
Dr. Tran Cong Truc shared that the Vietnam Law of the Sea has 54 articles in seven chapters. There are four contents legalized in the law, namely the demarcation of sea areas and continental shelves and assertion of sovereignty over islands and archipelagos; activities in Vietnamese waters; marine economic development; and the management and protection of sea and islands.
Article 1 of the Law of the Sea of Vietnam states, "This law provides regulations concerning the baseline, internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone, continental shelf, islands, the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands, the Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands and other archipelagoes under Vietnam's sovereignty, sovereign and jurisdiction rights; activities in Vietnamese waters; marine economic development; management and protection of sea and islands." Clause 2 of Article 19 reads, "Islands and archipelagoes under Vietnam's sovereignty are an inseparable part of Vietnam's territory."
The Law of the Sea of Vietnam clearly states that activities taking place in the waters of Vietnam must be in line with the legitimate rights of coastal states. The law also provides specific regulations on marine economic development and patrolling activities at sea.
After the Law of the Sea of Vietnam 2012, the National Assembly of Vietnam adopted the Vietnam Maritime Code 2015, taking effect from July 1, 2017, regulating maritime traffic and entry and exit activities for Vietnamese seaports. In addition, Vietnam also passed other legal documents related to the management and exploitation of the sea such as the Law on Marine and Island Resources and Environment (2015), the Law on Environmental Protection (2020), Law on National Borders (2003) and decrees on the protection of maritime structures and the management of activities of people and vehicles in sea border areas.
The Law of the Sea of Vietnam 2012 is an important legal document to regulate all the diverse and complex relations taking place in the waters and continental shelf under the sovereignty, sovereign and jurisdiction rights of Vietnam. According to Dr. Tran Cong Truc, regulations on the internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of Vietnam stated in the 2012 Law of the Sea of Vietnam are fully consistent with the provisions of UNCLOS 1982.
Abiding by law needed to deal with challenges
The introduction of the Law of the Sea of Vietnam 2012 has shown that Vietnam is a responsible member of UNCLOS and serves as the concretization of important legal regulations of UNCLOS to further contribute to the protection and management of Vietnam's legitimate rights and interests in the East Sea, internationally South China Sea, as well as its sovereignty and national security at sea. That Vietnam adopted the law is a wise step in line with international law, helping peacefully resolve disagreements and disputes in the East Sea.
In order to translate the Law of the Sea of Vietnam 2012 into life and make it effective, it is necessary to disseminate all of its contents to organizations and individuals of all walks of life, especially those who work in close relation with the sea and ocean. One of the current problems that Dr. Tran Cong Truc raised is the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the East Sea of Vietnamese fishermen. As a responsible member of the regional and international community, the Government of Vietnam has directed relevant ministries, sectors and localities to apply drastic measures to combat IUU fishing in order to soon remove the "yellow card" warning of the European Commission for Vietnamese seafood.
According to Dr. Tran Cong Truc, it is high time to analyze and identify the real causes for the "IUU problem" to still exist so as to find a solution to the problem. One of the reasons for this problem is that the fishing community of Vietnam as well as other countries may not have a clear understanding of the exact maritime borders as well as the "overlapping zones" formed based on claims among adjacent or opposite coastal states in the East Sea. More explanation and interpretation of application of regulations and responsibility of coastal states and organizations are needed to clarify and deal with this problem.
Plans and scenarios must also be developed so that fishermen when fishing at sea must comply with. At the same time, relevant parties must promote negotiations concerning overlapping zones to soon reach final demarcation lines or apply a temporary solution of "cooperation for common development of the overlapping zones," ensuring fairness for the parties in accordance with the provisions of UNCLOS 1982.
"More importantly, it is necessary to pro-actively and soon work with the European Union and other relevant international organizations about the current disagreements and disputes in the East Sea so that they understand clearly the complex nature and value of maritime borders and overlapping zones in the waters. By so doing, relevant parties can clarify on the right and the wrong points resulting from unilateral and unobjective information and acts inconsistent with the provisions of UNCLOS 1982 and bilateral or multilateral agreements in the region," said Dr. Tran Cong Truc.
(To be cont.)
Translated by Huu Duong
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